But Jasper never gave up looking. Guess I should have explained earlier – where we hung out at the time was around what people called Hell’s Kitchen. Hell’s Stewpot, more like, a bubbling cauldron of human left-overs, where sad old women nervously skirted past vicious-looking young men; where sad old buildings overshadowed even sadder vacant lots, and in the space of a day you could hear just about every language people speak. And not just languages; the place was stuffed with would-be singers, musicians and actors, I guess ‘cos it was cheap, though sure not cheerful. This was where Jasper searched for Lonely, though he had to run for his life more than once. Hell’s Kitchen was lively, but it weren’t safe – leastwise, not back then.
Then one morning Jasper, drenched, paw-sore and hungry, came back with a glint in his eyes I hadn’t seen for months. There were a crowd of us back of Mario’s that day; Missy, of course; a nervous little girl whom Missy had nicknamed Mouse, who – well, hell, yeah, she was a bit of a mouse. An old grizzled tom called – well, Tom - had joined us, and a couple of others I misremember. But yeah, Jasper – well, it didn’t need too much nous to know what his first words would be;
“I’ve found her!!!” He gasped. “I’ve found Lonely – she’s okay, she’s fine!”
Then he fell on the water bowl, drank it nearly dry and slumped down beside it, real tuckered out.
So took us a while to get his story out. As far as we could figure, Lonely nearly got nabbed by the Van; she got away – right under the wheels of a dumpster truck.
“She don’t remember much else.” Jasper went on, when he could talk. “Next thing, she’s lying on a cushion and some old guy’s trying to feed her milk through a straw, like.”
Lonely was real hazy about the rest, and when Jasper asked her about it, she got real mad with him.
“I can’t remember, stoopid! How many times do I have to say it?”
“But she’s okay now, Jasper?” I asked “I mean if she’s okay – why ain’t she come back?”
“I dunno, Oscar. I just dunno if she’ll ever come back.”
This didn’t make a bit of sense – not for Lonely. There was summat wrong, and, looking at my old buddy, all thin, sore and tuckered out, I thought – Okay, Oscar, down to you now. You gotta find out what’s with Lonely.” I’d get an answer out of her; Jasper was too easy on her – some females, you just gotta teach ‘em who’s on top! (1001)